April 7, 2010 – Montalcino to Rome
Sometimes the simplest days of travel are the most rewarding. A final walk around Siena (searching the the out of print book at Osteria Le Logge to no avail), then an incredibly gorgeous drive through southern Tuscany on the SR2 from Siena to Montalcino. Our destination was the Enoteca Fortezza Montalcino, a wonderfully quiet and quite undiscovered small wine bar and simple lunch spot right next to the famous fortress in Montalcino. The draw (besides the quaint patio)? A simple lunch of pasta or soup (ravioli filled with ricotta in a sage butter sauce and ribollita, the typical Tuscan bread soup with vegetables) and a salad is paired with a tasting of a flight of Brunellos, some of the best red wines of Italy. Although I’ve been to Italy many times, I learn new things with each visit. Did you know Tuscans don’t ever use salt in their bread? No wonder it’s bland. And that lasagna is made all over Italy but the cheese used differs with each region? Only Parmigiano in Tuscany.Satiated (almost sedated – had to stop for a caffe machiato on the way back), we drove back to Fiumicino to drop the rental car at the airport and grab the express train to Termini. (Note to self and others – this was by far the easiest and cheapest way Iâ€™ve ever entered the city and I doubt Iâ€™ll ever take a taxi again.) I couldnâ€™t wait to get into my favorite city, so we grabbed everything and headed out to a cab – which is when I discovered I had left my purse on the seat next to me on the train. Have you ever had one of those fight or flight responses when adrenaline takes over? I took 3 flights of stairs in Termini station in about 5 seconds, just as the train was closing itâ€™s doors, panic stricken (cash, passport, credit cards – everything was in there) and ran smack into a smiling Italian man who had cleaned out the train and was holding my purse – everthing intact – for me.
It took me most of the drive to meet up with the others from my group at the hotel in Rome to settle down, but I delighted in arriving at Albergo Santa Chiara, right beind the Pantheon. Some from the group arrived this morning, one arrived this evening, and one more to come tomorrow. With everyone tired, we enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail at my favorite spot, the Piazza della Rotunda adjacent to the Pantheon (see birthday post 2008), before dinner at Sant Eustachio right near the hotel. Iâ€™m trying to eat salad with every meal (not hard when they are this simple and fresh) but I had to indulge in my favorite pasta dish in Rome, spaghetti carbonara. This version was quite thick, like someone had overdone it with the eggs, but it still satisfied.
Domani? A casual stroll is planned around the city to orient the group. I always think start in the Centro Storico is the best way to begin exploring Rome, so we’ll wander around until the first person cries uncle and demands a nap.
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